In late 1995 Russell Timpson moved to Ash with his family and wanted to put together a team of people who wanted to play social rugby on the occasional Sunday allowing new blood to 'have a go'. He got together with Ian Castle and Mick Smalley, two stalwarts of the village as well as keen rugby men, and forged together all the components required. At the top of the list, a team!
On the 10th December Ash played its first game against Whitstable at Pfizer social Club in red shirts. Ash lost 10-0 but showed remarkable enthusiasm in defence and something unstoppable had started.
In January 1996 we received permission from the parish council to play rugby at the recreation ground. After acquiring a set of posts in January, the home pitch was first used on 11th February 1996 in a match against Faversham when the team also wore the now familiar green and white shirts for the first time.
Ash Rugby Club played eight games in its first season (1995 - 1996) and won four of them.
The following season the team was involved nearly every Sunday in a game either home or away. Results often did not go our way but the club was getting bigger and better throughout the season. The second season finished with a tour to Dublin where we played and beat Esso Fawley on a pitch we found by luck and had to provide our own referee, Mr Ray Biggs now one of our honoured VPs.
More significantly the 1996 - 1997 season will be remembered as the year the club started Sunday morning minis rugby for children from ages 6 to 11. With memorable successes in games against Canterbury and Aylesford.
The club's third season (1997 - 98) was getting tough, local club's were beginning to get to hear about us and could load their sides on a Sunday. We had to play against some heavyweights from their first teams to play our little village club with players new to the game. Sometimes we were beaten out of sight, but occasionally we won and some honourable clubs such as Thanet Wanderers put out teams we could compete against and sometimes beat.
Meanwhile the club was putting new coaches through the RFU preliminary coaching award on a regular basis and getting better coaching for the minis and it was decided that the minis section become financially autonomous. From then on it has run extremely successfully under the umbrella of the club but without any interference from it. With an ongoing aim that the children learn to play at Ash Rugby Club and then play as seniors once they reach their 17th birthday.
That year the club hosted their first foreign visitors from Lyon and out on a tournament that also involved Dover and Canterbury. The honourable thing to do after that was to return the tour and that year the club went to Lyon, France.
In 1998 improvement was becoming really difficult and something had to be done, the attitudes of the players and the club was changing. The need to play more competitive games against fair opposition became stronger. In January 1999 it was decided that we put the club forward to enter the East Kent Leagues. We were accepted and were entered into East Kent 3 for the season 1999-2000. It became a big year for the club.
A huge summer ball was organised and went ahead in July in the field farmed by Michael Coleman next to VHB Nurseries. The club also became affiliated to the RFU and opened its new website to encourage other clubs to tour here. The Ash RFC tour in 1999 was to Fort William in Scotland.
The early 2000s was a steady phase for the club, with successes such as winning the East Kent Plate Final during the 2004/2005 season against Ashford 28-3 in a sun-drenched match played at Canterbury RFC. This period was a good building period for the club, as shown during the late 2000s, as a 2nd XV was formed and the 1st XV moved up to the Kent leagues. This was the first time during the history of the club that 2 senior sides played in competitive leagues respectively.
The period was probably one of the best within the club’s history. At this level, the 1st XV were competing with other club’s first teams of similar quality and had good results in both the Kent Vase and League. Respectively the 2nd XV (Saxons) had good results in the Kent rural leagues, but never managed to win the league. The 2000s shows how fast the seniors side of Ash RFC had grown within 10 years.
The 1st XV continued to have good results in the league and Kent Vase. with being semi-finalists of the 2011/2012 Kent Vase. Unfortunately, we lost to Gillingham Anchorians in this fixture but this was a fantastic occasion for the club as this was one of the biggest games the club had ever been involved in.
However, the decline in player numbers throughout all team sports in the county resulted in the club returning to a single senior’s team competing in the Kent rural leagues, but the club aspires to return to the Kent leagues when the youth starts to continuously feed into the seniors.
The Mini section started a few years after the seniors, concentrating on the core values and skills of rugby in a family friendly club atmosphere up to the age of 11. Many later developing kids may have missed out at any other but Ash pride themselves as a club that has always put the kids first, something that the RFU are now promoting.
The youth section was developed in 2012/2013 with plans to take the kids on to U17s – at which point they can begin to play senior rugby. Over these years we have seen the skills level of these groups develop to play against teams at a higher skill level than our seniors, resulting in a good tradition into senior rugby for these young players. The future of senior rugby looks to be bright with these talented young players coming through and hopefully staying at the club.
The season of the 2017-2018 saw new history within the club, where a full squad from the youth setup was introduced into senior rugby. Young and old players combined to create a new Ash senior squad, which would be one of the most successful squads in the club’s history. A new league was introduced for the season, and Ash was in the Cinque 4 East. The squad went on to winning games consecutively and winning this league! The team lost 3 games but won 15 in the league, and this is the first season where an Ash team had won a league. The team were promoted to the Late Red 3, where they will be playing in the 2018-2019 season.
The 2018/2019 season was a pretty successful season for Ash RFC. With drawing 2 home games (which is a rare thing in rugby!), Ash lost 11 games and won 9 in the league, but the season had other games which made the season a successful season, instead of average. Ash played Faversham (a repeat of the first game at the recreation ground) in the Kent Salver Quarter Final, the clubs biggest game since the 2011/2012 Vase semi-final. Ash lost 17-20, and this showed that the team had improved throughout the season.
For the mini’s and juniors, it was a very successful season, with Ash participating in county and regional tournaments such as the Persil Tournament, where Ash youth teams had good results and everybody had fun. Ash Minis also hosted the U11s East Kent Festival in October 2018, with this event being a complete success for Ash RFC and East Kent rugby in general. The Junior teams showed the growth and development of the squads throughout previous seasons in their results, with the U15s beating in-form Maidstone and the U12s having a steady and successful season with some big wins against Folkestone.
The 2019/2020 season was another positive season for Ash RFC. The seniors side stayed in the same league as last year (but being renamed to Kent 4). We have a new coach, Kieran Hopper who would took a key coaching role for the Seniors squad for the 19/20 season. The 1st XV had a solid year for fixtures, where we didn't lose many games during the season. The squad finished the season with a 6 game win streak, before the season was suspended and then finished earlier than planned due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. For the minis and juniors, there is more success here, where Ash RFC hosted the East Kent Festival again in October 2019 for the U8s, and the junior’s sides had a positive season to build and develop themselves within friendlies and the Kent cup fixtures.
The start of the new 2020/21 season had been placed with uncertainty due to the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions. There is a return to play in place, but we simply don't know when the season will start! What we do know is that Ash RFC is 25 this season; there will be events and special occasions this year, however due to the pandemic we are not sure on when these things will happen. Furthermore, Ash seniors will be running a new side, Ash Hornets, which will be playing in the rural leagues, where the 1st XV will playing in Kent 2 for the first time in 6-7 years.